Book Review: Brokenness


by Nancy Leigh DeMoss

Brokenness, by Nancy Leigh DeMoss, was born out of something God did at a Campus Crusade for Christ staff conference, which took place in Moby Gym at Colorado State University in July of 1995. The focus of the conference was revival, and the organizers, desiring a fresh work of God, intentionally departed from a “normal” conference schedule. On the third day of the conference, DeMoss spoke on the subject of brokenness and humility. When she finished, what God had been doing in the hearts of those in attendance became visible. DeMoss writes, “No human fully knows or could possibly capture what took place that hot July in Colorado. But I believe most who were present would agree that God was there and that His presence was manifest in an extraordinary way. As He began to move in the hearts of His people, all scheduled events for the rest of the day were cancelled; the same thing happened the next day and half of the following day. There were no official breaks during the service that began at 9:00 Monday morning and continued until midnight that night. Most of those in attendance had no desire to leave, though some slipped in and out as necessary for physical nourishment or to tend to needs of children. Throughout the day, hour after hour, people stayed glued to their seats on the main floor or in the bleachers as we waited, listened, repented, prayed, and worshiped.”

There is much talk these days about revival: what constitutes a true revival, creating an atmosphere conducive for revival, how desperately we need revival “in our land.” The prevailing attitude says, “Let’s figure it out and manufacture it.” But as DeMoss points out, there is not a formula. What we do have is God’s timeless Word which teaches that he hates pride, but that He will draw near to and use the broken and contrite. DeMoss invites the reader to “encounter God in a whole new way. It is a call to discover His heart and His ways; a challenge to embrace a radically new way of thinking and living, in which the way up is down, death brings life, and brokenness is the pathway to wholeness.”

The theme of contradictions runs throughout the book: those who appear to be most spiritual are in greatest need of revival, those who are waiting for revival oftentimes are the ones used to start it, those who die to their “self-sins” experience more life, those who are broken are most whole, the humble ones are exalted, those who weep know deep joy, and those who expose their sin and needs are covered. Though the path to brokenness before God and our neighbors will be a painful one, it will lead to healing and restoration, to personal revival, to greater intimacy with God and others, and to our increased usefulness in the hand of God. On the other hand, when we rely on ourselves and hide behind our spiritual facades, we cut ourselves off from God’s blessings and grace.

DeMoss uses passages from both testaments, especially Psalms and Isaiah, to describe brokenness. She also describes eight biblical profiles to demonstrate what brokenness is and what it is not. In Chapter 4, “Am I a Proud or a Broken Person?,” she shares, in list form, the characteristics of a broken person compared with those of a person who is proud. While it cannot be definitive, it is a very thorough list of characteristics which distinguish the broken and the proud. She has identified eight categories for these characteristics: attitudes toward others, attitudes about rights, attitudes about service and ministry, attitudes about recognition, attitudes about themselves, attitudes about relationships, attitudes about sin, and attitudes about their walk with God.

The final chapter offers specific steps the reader can take to humble himself before God by using the tools He provides: His Word, our circumstances, and other believers. DeMoss notes the wisdom in choosing brokenness over being broken, writing, “The fact is, we will all be broken — sooner or later. We can choose to be broken or we can wait for God to crush our pride. If we resist the means God provides to lead us to brokenness, we do not avoid brokenness — we simply make it necessary for God to intensify and prolong the process.” She then offers four suggestions to enhance personal brokenness. They are not new, nor are they repackaged to sound new. She does not advocate getting something from God, rather she discusses rightly orienting our lives to God.

As I was reading, two aspects of this book stood out to me. One is that DeMoss does not presume to know everything there is not know about how God works and brings revival to His people. She shares her experience and wisdom from scripture, but only refers to her insight as suggestions. Another is that DeMoss does not create any new rules to follow. She admits that God will deal with each of His children in a different way, so that what she shares about how He has dealt with her is presented as personal experience only — not a prescription. Only He knows the intricacies of each of our hearts and is in a position to apply rebuke, conviction, forgiveness and grace.

Finally, DeMoss offers a personal testimony of her struggle to remain broken and humble before God and her brothers and sisters in Christ. Brokenness is rarely a once-for-all-time experience; it is a “starting place for a lifelong cycle.” After six chapters of instruction, her testimony demonstrates, to a degree, the spiritual fight and pain that accompanies a deep desire to follow Christ whole-heartedly and see Him glorified in all things.

Each chapter ends with questions for reflection, to bring conviction, and reveal areas of personal application. There is also a discussion guide for leading a small group or to enhance one’s spiritual growth with even more difficult questions to consider.

I am glad to recommend it for your personal or group study.

2 thoughts on “Book Review: Brokenness

  1. …it is a “starting place for a lifelong cycle.”I could not say it better. This book was such a ministry to me, two years ago, and today I need to read it again. On the way to school this morning I began to pray. The words were of me telling God very vivid details of my vileness. I always know He is near when that is what I am prompted to say. As much as it hurts I also know He is ready to heal. Praise His Name!Thanks for this reminder, Leslie.

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  2. Oh wow, that book sounds good…..I’m guessing the lists of a proud vs broken person would be quite sobering for me : ( Thanks for sharing!! I’m amazed at how fast you read a book and give a review in 1 post! : ) I should take some lessons from you! ; )

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